Today is the end, the last day, my final chance. I did not do it all. I have not achieved everything I hoped to do. I tried. I had specific goals that I wanted to accomplish during my time, but I had more goals than time and there were forces that conspired against me.
Tomorrow I go back to work. My vacation is over. I took two weeks off and I could have taken more. This was my first vacation since my two months of part-time work following the birth of kid three last fall.
My current employer doesn’t top up parental leave and I couldn’t afford to take time without a top-up to close to my take home pay. I saved up most of my vacation last year and spread it out over a couple of months in the fall. Some days I worked full time , some part time and others not at all. It worked reasonably well and I am fortunate that the bosses were willing to let me work a somewhat crazy, flexible schedule. Much of my work is web-based and often not tied to standard work hours. As such I was able to work when the baby was sleeping and be helpful and engaged when she was awake. I was also able to shift my work around if we had a bad sleep night and have naps as needed so that I could be functional when I was working.
It was great to be able to take advantage of the flexible nature of my work and my employer. I still would have preferred to be on parental leave. I was able to take two and seven months respectively with my first two kids and that time was so important for me and my family. If I hadn’t been able to do that it would have taken me longer to become diaper-change proficient and longer to figure out how to be an engaged parent. My wife and I had the opportunity to learn how to do it together. We taught each other what we knew and what we learned. We established a pattern for our parenting style.
Every Kid is Different
Of course every kid is different and what works with one doesn’t necessarily work with another. We lucked out with our first two and they both started sleeping through the night at two months old. That is not the case with kid three. We are ten months in and sleeping through the night consistently is an elusive dream. I had hoped to spend my vacation catching up on sleep since I didn’t need to get up to go to work or get kids up for school/camp.
My mum even took the oldest two girls for #Nannycamp for a week, which should have given us the chance to sleep more. Unfortunately kid three was not down with that plan. She insisted that we should get up and hang out with her for an hour or two each night. That lead us to some solid sleep deprivation and general crankiness.
She kindly slept through the night last night so today is the first day in a week that I haven’t had a fatigue headache all day. She is also not a big napper so we don’t get sleep time during the day. Actually she is currently asleep in the van in the driveway and I am sitting on the porch because I don’t want to wake her up by moving her inside.
Protected Paternity Leave
I recently read a study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that discussed the benefits of fathers being able to take leave and having protected paternity leave instead of sharing the parental leave with the mother. It argued for a protected month as well as increased benefits.
Improved Parental Leave
I actually think each parent should be eligible for up to one year of leave. We have a pretty good system in Canada, especially compared to many other countries. That doesn’t mean we can’t improve it. If both parents took a year it would reduce the costs of day care for families and would go a long way to establish equal parenting in the household. Each parent would have the opportunity to be the stay-at-home parent and become experts in parenting their child and generally looking after the home. It would give both parents the opportunity to engage and really bond with their kid. It would also help them to both understand the realities of stay-at-home parenting.Dads need protected paternity leave and more protected time should be made available for both parents.Click To Tweet
It may also spark the creation of many new small enterprises since so many parents take advantage of their parental leave time to create new businesses.
Our parental leave system is built on the backbone of employment insurance. I know from experience that my partner and I can each collect employment insurance for up to a year with out impacting the other person’s eligibility. I don’t see why we couldn’t do the same for parental leave.
Our employment insurance system is not particularly generous and likewise the benefits paid out for parental leave are limited. The first step is changing the policy to allow each parent to take time, the second is encouraging employers to top up the benefit so that their employees can afford to take the leave. In my case my income is the primary household income and the drop in income was just not affordable for us. I know that we are not the only family in this situation, not mention all the single parents out there and those who are earning less than me. If we had planned a little better we could have shaved some money from every paycheque or my wife could have worked a little more in the year or two before kid three was born and we could have banked that money to allow me to take some parental leave. Things are tight as they are and that would have made it more challenging for longer. It was an option though and many people don’t have that option.
The CCPA article suggests increasing the benefit payout for fathers since men still make more than women and an increased payout would encourage more of those high earning dads to take a leave. Nothing like perpetuating a little wage inequity to change the system I guess. I would argue that we should increase the benefit for all parents to 60% of their income up to a maximum of $3000 a month or something like that. I’m sure someone with researchers and calculators could determine an appropriate number that would be affordable for the system and create the greatest benefit for parents and kids.
Did you take parental leave when your kids were born?
How much leave did you take and what impact did it have on you and on your relationships in your family and co-workers?
Would you take a year if you could?